Thursday 21 May 1668

Up, and busy to send some things into the country, and then to the Office, where meets me Sir Richard Ford, who among other things congratulates me, as one or two did yesterday, [on] my great purchase; and he advises me rather to forbear, if it be not done, as a thing that the world will envy me in: and what is it but my cozen Tom Pepys’s buying of Martin Abbey, in Surry! which is a mistake I am sorry for, and yet do fear that it may spread in the world to my prejudice. All the morning at the office, and at noon my clerks dined with me, and there do hear from them how all the town is full of the talk of a meteor, or some fire, that did on Saturday last fly over the City at night, which do put me in mind that, being then walking in the dark an hour or more myself in the garden, after I had done writing, I did see a light before me come from behind me, which made me turn back my head; and I did see a sudden fire or light running in the sky, as it were towards Cheapside ward, and it vanished very quick, which did make me bethink myself what holyday it was, and took it for some rocket, though it was much brighter than any rocket, and so thought no more of it, but it seems Mr. Hater and Gibson going home that night did meet with many clusters of people talking of it, and many people of the towns about the city did see it, and the world do make much discourse of it, their apprehensions being mighty full of the rest of the City to be burned, and the Papists to cut our throats. Which God prevent! Thence after dinner I by coach to the Temple, and there bought a new book of songs set to musique by one Smith of Oxford, some songs of Mr. Cowley’s, and so to Westminster, and there to walk a little in the Hall, and so to Mrs. Martin’s, and there did hazer cet que je voudrai mit her, and drank and sat most of the afternoon with her and her sister, and here she promises me her fine starling, which was the King’s, and speaks finely, which I shall be glad of, and so walked to the Temple, meeting in the street with my cozen Alcocke, the young man, that is a good sober youth, I have not seen these four or five years, newly come to town to look for employment: but I cannot serve him, though I think he deserves well, and so I took coach and home to my business, and in the evening took Mrs. Turner and Mercer out to Mile End and drank, and then home, and sang; and eat a dish of greene pease, the first I have seen this year, given me by Mr. Gibson, extraordinary young and pretty, and so saw them at home, and so home to bed. Sir W. Pen continues ill of the gout.

27 Annotations

First Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

The Royal Society today at Arundel House — from the Hooke Folio Online

May. 21. 1668. mr Hooke brought in the Acct. of the staticall expt. made the Last Day for Examining the Penetration of Liquors It was orderd to be entred .

(Boyle Expt. of glutting [aqua fortis (… )] with [mercury] .)

Ld Brounk. weighing &. mixing salt & water. Boyle to try this by weighing salt in oyle of turpentine) Boyle by soe weighing sublimate finds its goodnesse

Trauaginj [ ] Letter about his new system of Phylosophy.

The expt. made this day was another staticall one with [aqua fortis] & [Mars/iron]
The Curator coming Late the Expt. which requires much time could not be finisht

(Collins Receipt for making Gum Lac Vernice [… ] entred)…

Michael L  •  Link

"... their apprehensions being mighty full of the rest of the City to be burned, and the Papists to cut our throats. Which God prevent!"

It is amazing to me how truly afraid people of the era were about Catholics plotting to slit their throats and torture their family. There was an interesting program on BBC radio last year about the impact of Foxe's Book of Martyrs on English attitudes towards Catholics. The luridly illustrated book was a compendium of Catholic crimes through the ages, and was second in sales only to the Bible. The program suggests that the book's immense popularity had an enormous impact on feeding English fears.

Link to Melvyn Bragg's "In Our Time" program on Foxe's Book of Martyrs:…

Chris Squire  •  Link

Re ’. . but I cannot serve him, though I think he deserves well, . . ’

‘Serve v. tr, . . 16. a. trans. To render useful service to, do good offices to (a person); to work for or assist in any matter.
. . 1658 W. Dugdale Let. 9 Nov. in Life (1827) 340, I‥shall rest At your commands wherein I may serve you, W. Dugdale.
1727 Lady M. W. Montagu Let. 28 June (1966) II. 80, I am sure whatever I can serve my poor Nieces and Nephews in, shall not be wanting on my Part.’ [OED]

JWB  •  Link

And more fears...
And the Thirty Years War had just ended in '48.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"I did see a sudden fire or light running in the sky, as it were towards Cheapside ward, and it vanished very quick, which did make me bethink myself what holyday it was, and took it for some rocket, though it was much brighter than any rocket"

L&M note this meteor was observed by a certain Wood in Bucks: "May 16, Sat, between 9 and 10 of the clock at night being then at Borstall, com. Bucks, I saw a Draco volens (flying dragon) fall from the sky. It made the sky soe light that one might see to read. It seemed to me to be as long as All Saints Steeple, Oxon. It was long and narrow and when it came to the lower region it vanished in sparkles. Mr. Sanders of Hadnam whom I met at Notley on Monday following told me that with them it vanished with a report. Great rains and inundations followed."

Carl in Boston  •  Link

Reading about the Waldensian massacres and such, small wonder the Pepysians feared to be set upon by Papists. Sobering thoughts on this Rapture Day.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"...took it for some rocket, though it was much brighter than any rocket, and so thought no more of it..."

I take it Sam means fireworks rockets.

But there always good ole Alex to consider...

"Sir? What do you think?"

"Probably my father-in-law the crackpot French inventor, Hewer. Mrs. Pepys was going on about some giant rocket he was building that he'd test fly over England, then fire off to the moon."

"Sir, I mean...Should we?..." Sound of rocket swooping...

"...Duck?...Yes, by all means, Hewer."

Splat of rocket hitting mudhole...


"Here, sir...Is it quite sunk in the mud, sir?"

"Appears so...Hmmn...Quite a large one...Didn't think it would be quite that large. But I suppose to shoot it to the moon..."

"Of course, sir...It could always have come...From the moon, sir."

Hmmn...Whoa...Bubbling in mudhole.

"Sir? Mightn't we best...?"

"Run, Hewer? Probably the best thing."

Figure emerges from the mud... "Sam'l?" Bess removes what would be recognized as a diving helmet.


"Father? I'm afraid we didn't make it to the moon, after all..." Bess calls back to the emerging Alex, likewise in helmet and thick leather suit.


Massacre Protestants? Why I don't know how these rumors about us get started...Pay no attention to that Inquistitor behind the curtain. Pardon me, Mr. Pepys but would you hold this "kill me, I'm Protestant" sign while I nail it to your door? Thanks so much old fellow.

Meanwhile...At that Earthly Den of Iniquity, the Vatican...

"Cardinale...?" young kneeling figure consults red-robed kneeling figure.

"Son?, boy?"

"That heavy breathing, Cardinale? A bit unnerving..."

"His Holiness' bronchitis acting up again...Quiet."

"Speak, Cardinal."

"Holiness...About your plan to take the 'direct' approach in England...Given our failures with Revolution, Plague, and Fire..."

"Don't tell me..."

"Well, Holiness..."

"I mean, Cardinal...Don't tell me..." grimly dark tone...

"Si, Holiness...A thousand pardons for troubling you with a small matter which can of course wait..."

"But Cardinale...?"

"Just shut up and back away, bowing, boy."

Mary  •  Link

"extraordinary young and pretty"

I presume that it is the peas that are so young and pretty (not Mr. Gibson). They sound delicious - young, sweet and succulent without the starchiness of more mature examples.

Mary  •  Link

"and yet do fear that it may spread in the world to my prejudice"

Indeed, especially as the matter of the prize cargoes has not yet been put to rest. Awkward assumptions might be made.

Mark S  •  Link

Thursday 21 May 1668

I think it is Mr Gibson who is 'pretty' - but not in our meaning of the word.

It is probably the meaning common in Scottish dialect and older English. A 'pretty man' meant someone strong, athletic, brave, capable, or with the qualities of a soldier.

The Dictionary of the Scots language says:

"Applied to men as having the proper or desirable qualities or skills. a. Most freq. with reference to manly or martial qualities: Brave, stout, doughty, ‘good’."

It gives some examples of usage:

1617 Your ablest and prettiest men
1643 He was ane prettie soldiour
1672 The clan Torkil in Lewis were the stoutest and prettiest men

Mary  •  Link

Yes, I'm aware of the use of 'pretty' in such a context. It was the 'extraordinarily young' that surprised. Pepys knows Gibson well (he's a clerk in the Navy Office) and mentions him fairly often, so why should he suddenly decide that the fellow is extraordinarily young?

Terry Foreman  •  Link

‘extraordinarily young’ Gibson?

Annote by nix says "The Oxford DNB says that Gibson was born in 1635"....

language hat  •  Link

"I presume that it is the peas that are so young and pretty"

Yes, I don't see how it can sensibly be read any other way.

pepfie  •  Link

"...and there did hazer cet que je voudrai mit her"

For the first time ever in his - well, not life, but diary, I perceive a German word seasoning his usual Romance olla podrida. Should we feel flattered now that even innocent German prepositions may have a sexual connotation or is it just intended to contrast?
Fortunately, the Project Gutenberg text contains only two instances all in all.

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Sir Richard Ford...congratulates me, as one or two did yesterday, [on] my great purchase; and he advises me rather to forbear, if it be not done, as a thing that the world will envy me in: and what is it but my cozen Tom Pepys’s buying of Martin Abbey, in Surry!"

L&M: Merton Priory, Surrey, was conveyed on 4-5 June 1668 to Thomas Pepys of Hatcham: O. Manning and W. Bray, Hist. Surray (1804-14), ii. 255; VCH, Surrey, iv. . 66.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Thence after dinner I by coach to the Temple, and there bought a new book of songs set to musique by one Smith of Oxford, some songs of Mr. Cowley’s,"

L&M: Muic untraced; this is probably William King's Poems of Mr. Cowley and others composed into songs and ayres (Oxford, 1668): PL 1971.

Poems of Mr. Cowley and others composed into songs and ayres with a thorough basse to the theorbo, harpsecon, or base-violl by William King ...
King, William, 1624-1680., Cowley, Abraham, 1618-1667.
Oxford: Imprinted by William Hall for the author, 1668.
Early English Books Online [full text]…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

May 21. 1668
Levant Company to Consul Ricaut.

Thanks for his letters from July to November, sent by the general ships, as also the Treasurer’s account.
Send his articles of agreement and instructions.
Half of the 2,000 dollars mentioned in their last, and of the interest, is to be paid for the use of the owners of the Greyhound, the other half to be placed to the company’s credit.
[S.P. Foreign, Levant Co. 5, p. 173.]
Instructions to Paul Ricaut, consul at Smyrna.
To keep the company clear of debt;
collect the consulage;
see that all ship-commanders and factors take oath to make true entries, and that they pay all the duties;
to prevent English ships serving the Turks in their war with the Venetians;
to rectify abuses in import of bad raw silk from Smyrna and Constantinople.
To help to suppress false and adulterated moneys;
to prevent the over-charge of customs by factors on their principals;
to hinder the landing of fruit, &c., at Scala Nova;
to use his discretion in abatement of strangers’ consulage, on account of the competition in trade with the Dutch;
to prevent strangers’ goods being passed by the factors under colour of being their own;
to place and displace the dragomen at Smyrna at his pleasure.
To inquire into the objections made against the accounts of Rich. Mowse when consul there;
to take possession of the books and papers of any factor dying, and give information thereof;
to try to reclaim any factors that are licentious, and if incorrigible, to give notice thereof;
to take care that a fit person supplies the place of the chancellor at Smyrna, who lately died, till a successor is appointed.
— 9 April 1668.
[S.P. Foreign, Levant Co. 5, pp. 175–9.]

'Charles II: May 1668', in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles II, 1667-8, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1893), pp. 369-418. British History Online…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

May 21. 1668
Ordnance Office.
Fras. Nicholls, Edw. Sherburne, and Geo. Clark, to the Navy Office Commissioners.

We wonder to hear the complaint that despatch has not been given to sending away the guns to the ship going for Bristol.
If any demurrage happened in loading, it is your fault.
Had the ship been ready for the guns, they might have been in her 10 days ago.

A lighter, sent 1 May with 14 guns, lay 15 days waiting for the ship throwing out her ballast, and all the rest of the guns lay ready at Tower Wharf to be sent down;
all were soon put in when the ship could begin to work, which was 5 or 6 days ago.

Will this ship be able to carry all the stores? the guns and ordnance stores will be 190 tons.
[S.P. Dom., Car. II. 240, No. 94.]


May 21. 1668
Wm. Bagwell, carpenter of the Rupert, to Sam. Pepys.

In pursuance of his authority, pressed two carpenters from the yard of Mr. Emms, master shipwright, near Ratcliffe Cross.
Emms resisted the press, and caused his men to fall upon the boat’s crew, and rescue them by violence.
[S.P. Dom., Car. II. 240, No. 98.]

AH-HA Pepys ... Bagwell's away!

May 21. 1668
Earl of Anglesey to Sam. Pepys.

I desire notice to be posted up at the Navy Office gate that I will pay the Jersey on Saturday next,
and the Lion on Monday,
so that the ships’ companies may attend.
[S.P. Dom., Car. II. 240, No. 102.]

The word spread quickly, because the following day:

May 22. 1668
Sir John Harman to Sam. Pepys.

Thanks for the advertisement as to the payment of the Lion.
I sent to my lieutenant to carry all the Lion’s men at Chatham, on board the Defiance in the Hope, and I believe he has done so.

Sir Rob. Holmes has an order to carry 100 men out of her;
I hope the Lion’s men will supply them.
I desire that her men may be paid on board the Defiance, for if not, I doubt I shall not get them on board in haste, and so many of the best men being carried out of her, the ship would be left in an ill condition.

I want some blank tickets.
[S.P. Dom., Car. II. 240, No. 103.]

Presumably Balty is included in this pay day.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

May 21. 1668
W. Perwich to Williamson.

His lordship [Lord Arlington] intends returning at the time appointed.
Has no news of the King.
[S.P. Dom., Car. II. 240, No. 90.]

L&M say the Stuart Brothers and the Court went to Newmarket on 21 May and returned on the 23rd: London Gazette, 25 May, 1668.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

I don't think the English needed to remember the Waldensian massacre of 1655, horrific though it was, to justify their Catholic-phobia: they believed the Great Fire two years ago was set by Catholics.
At home, they remembered the 5th of November, and the Maine, Bye and Gunpowder plots.
Whispers about the Duke and Duchess of York's and Charles II's religious waverings ... and the open defection of the renowned Lady Castlemaine ... and the Catholic Queen Catherine with her entourage of priests ... made people very nervous.
The Catholic Irish were always troublesome ... fear that they would host a Catholic invasion underlay English foreign policy ... it was there in WWII, but substitute German invasion for a religious one.
And I'm sure the Auto de Fe was a reason to fear the Jesuits ... Queen Mary had played with that fear just 100 years ago. Large ones were held in 1648 in Mexico and 1680 in Madrid; probably there were more.

I'm sure there were other justifications, but this is a good start.

Phil C.  •  Link

I think the link for Martin Abbey might be incorrect, it leads to Merton Priory, which I think was already just a ruin. A search for Martin Abbey, Surrey, brings up a link in the National Archives for the Will of Mary Wilson, Widow of Martin Abbey, dated 3rd October 1662. Perhaps her descendants sold it to Pepys... However though you can download a facsimile I can’t see an address at a first glance.

Phil C.  •  Link

Oops, I see Terry Foreman had already posted about Merton Abbey. I wonder what the building was like...

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Sam is to be congratulated on his good fortune for having seen last night's meteor - he could have been indoors or in a narrow street - and commended for not parsing it for portents. If it made a bang, audible even over the hum of London, it must have been low, and/or large, indeed, and the people's concern well justified, if maybe not for the reasons they imagined.

We now wonder if it is more than coincidence that, in early March, a great comet hung in the skies for a few days. It wasn't visible from England, but the Society took note of reports from more southerly latitudes, and the Gazette (how we now wish it was searchable) recorded the fright it gave in parts of Europe. A helpful compilation of reports (at…) notes it was "extraordinarily bright" as seen from Brazil, though for a few days only. Tentative, and disputed, reconstitutions of its orbit have suggested it was so observed in the days after it had grazed the Sun (some comets to that, to their detriment), on a trajectory nearly perpendicular to the Earth's orbit (an inclination of 144°). The comet was then on its way out, returning to the more serene outer reaches of the upper spheres.

In the pristine skies of 1668 one wouldn't expect a bright comet to be so briefly visible, but if it flew by on this vertical approach then it could have got away fast indeed. If so, could it have also passed close enough to the Earth (and to Sam, and even to Fraü Bagwell) for some debris it would have shed, being weakened by its then-recent adventure into the Sun's ardent neighborhood, to have so promptly (2.5 months) entered the atmosphere and occasioned this exceptional meteor? Why, it could easily have been an even larger, much larger, debris. The Diary would then have ended even sooner, and the Anthropocene perhaps ended before it had even really started. But Providence saw otherwise, for which the Lord be praised!

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Steohane, there was a time. a few years ago, when the Gazette was searchable, if memory serves. It was very accessible when it was first posted. I too wish it were still.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

I had no idea a comet could hang around for, what, 10 weeks? ... those sightings are all from March and April 1668. We are heading into the end of May. I know nothing about comets, so I wonder why Pepys' reports aren't included in this report either. I know they can hang around for a while, but ...???
On the other hand, having two so close together would be highly unlikely also.
No wonder people were freaked out.

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

No indeed, comets do not hang around, the Universe being a busy place where nothing stands idle, and let the record show that we're not suggesting otherwise. Most, however, travel in the same plane as the Earth, and we see them coasting along, as a coach on a road parallel to ours, for up to a few weeks if our roads are close enough. We thought this one, if visible so briefly, was a coach we quickly passed on a road perpendicular to ours. But all is in motion, always, and the comet seen in March, if it survived an encounter with the Sun, is by May speeding away and ever further from Mrs Bagwell.

But, if the comet fractured ahead of its flyby of Earth, and one of the fragments was impelled a lateral push (by, say, a release of gas as the comet's ice volatilised), that fragment may have been drawn to Earth by the forces which Mr. Newton is presently ruminating about, and may have entered a broad orbit around the Earth. With the right combination of timings, angles and velocities, that orbit could, over 2.5 months, have narrowed to the point of bringing this small, second Moon, into collision with the atmosphere. With so few observations to triangulate the comet's trajectory, and much controversy around the 19th century attempts to do so - 'tis pure speculation on our part, but we've done worse.

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